Across the state, a quarter of the more than 700 school-board seats have more than one candidate. Only 44 — about 6 percent — have three or more candidates, according to the Washington State School Directors’ Association.
There are nearly 50 school-board seats up for grabs in 20 King County school districts this fall, but only half have more than one candidate. And only six seats have enough contenders that necessitate a primary election to narrow the field.
Contested school-board races are even more rare across the state, where only a quarter of the seats have more than one candidate, and only 44 (about 6 percent) have three or more.
But the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA), which compiled all this data, said the number of candidates is up from 2015. The increase, the association noted, could be because there are about 9 percent more open seats this year.
One race in the Kent, Lake Washington, and Mercer Island school districts, plus three in Seattle require a primary vote. Three of those six races have an incumbent. Statewide, incumbents are running uncontested in 445 of nearly 700 races, according to WSSDA.
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In Seattle, two people are running against incumbent Betty Patu, though she and Chelsea Byers will almost certainly advance to the general election as third candidate Tony Hemphill has stopped campaigning. The other two seats are open because Sue Peters and Stephan Blanford decided against seeking re-election.
Seattle teachers union Vice President Michael Tamayo said the union sees open seats as a way to work with new people who might bring new perspectives to the board.
“Any time there are this many seats open, it’s always, from the union’s standpoint, an opportunity,” he said.
Though the races in larger districts tend to have more candidates, the school directors association also found competition in rural areas. In Tonasket, Okanogan County, for example, nine people are running for three seats on a board that leads a district of 1,140 students.
And money isn’t big in school board races. So far, only 35 candidates have reported raising any money to the State Public Disclosure Commission. Those 35 have raised a total of $132,717, with three Seattle candidates — Eden Mack, Omar Vasquez and Zachary Pullin DeWolf — at the top of the list for contributions.